House Democrats are ringing the bell against the White House after President Biden indicated he would sign legislation to lift the national emergency declaration surrounding COVID-19 – a move that came less than two months after Democrats objected en masse to the same extent at the request of the administration.
Nearly 200 House Democrats had voted on Feb. 1 against the Republican proposal to immediately repeal the emergency designation, after the White House warned it would “create large-scale chaos and uncertainty across the health system”. Administration officials said they needed a longer liquidation window and would unilaterally remove the designation on May 11. It passed the House 229-197 with 11 Democrats voting in favour.
Yet Senate Democrats presented the same repeal proposal on Wednesday, where it passed easily by a 68-23 vote, and a White House official said Biden would sign it.
The president’s shift in stance caught House Democrats off guard, and a number of lawmakers — especially the frontliners, who will face tough re-election contests next year — were quick to voice their concerns. frustrations when they heard the news on Wednesday evening.
“It’s frustrating,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said. “At best it is [an] unacceptable lack of clarity in their message. I mean, if they take the position that they didn’t explicitly say he would veto it in the [Statement of Administration Policy], you know, it’s not good. It is a problem. And, you know, we have to have conversations because that – they have to do better.
“I find it surprising and would like to see a little more consistency,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said.
The White House’s about-face on Wednesday brought back memories for some members of a similar situation earlier this month, when Biden said he would sign a resolution to block Washington, D.C.’s revised penal code despite the publication by the administration made a statement earlier that said it opposes the measure.
A total of 173 House Democrats had already voted against the legislation, a position they believed to be in line with the White House. The announcement sparked howls among House Democrats who felt caught off guard by the White House’s shift in tone.
Some Democrats said the problem with the COVID-19 resolution was not the practical implications of passing the bill, since Biden planned to repeal the emergency designation in less than a month and a half. On the contrary, they are frustrated by what they see as a lack of communication between the White House and its allies on Capitol Hill.
“Obviously we’re going to need a better line of communication,” another Democrat said. “You should talk to some of the front lines; the first rows are the ones whose heads explode.
The Hill spoke to a few frontliners, and while no heads popped, there was plenty of frustration bubbling over.
“It’s obviously frustrating…to put ourselves on the spot unnecessarily,” said one of those lawmakers, who spoke on condition of anonymity to criticize an ally.
Declared in March 2020, the national emergency designation empowered the Trump administration, and later the Biden administration, to exploit special powers under the National Emergencies Act in an effort to combat COVID-19. . Biden had used that authority to help states and localities fight the virus, largely through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and to launch his controversial effort to forgive student loans, which is currently stalled. before the courts.
The national emergency is distinct from the public health emergency designation, declared in January 2020, which grants the administration additional powers and access to resources — a designation that fueled Title 42’s authority to expel migrants arriving at the southern border. The administration is expected to end the public health emergency on May 11.
Washington’s emergency response to the pandemic has been an explosive issue on the campaign trail, where Republicans have faulted Biden for going too far in his response at the expense of individual liberties and the country’s fiscal health. And GOP operatives wasted no time on Wednesday pointing out the House vote in hopes that it will become a liability for vulnerable Democrats at the polls next year.
“Once again, House Democrats are showing voters how extreme they are, while House Republicans continue to deliver on their promise to the American people,” said Courtney Parella, spokesperson for Congressional Leadership. Fund, a Republican PAC, in a statement.
Republicans have also been quick to use the vote on DC’s crime bill as a way to paint House Democrats as soft on crime. The code would partially eliminate most mandatory penalties and reduce penalties for a variety of offenses, including carjacking and robbery.
The Republican National Congressional Committee announced a new ad campaign less than a week after the president’s announcement, targeting 15 House Democrats for their opposition vote.
“Murderers sentenced to reduced sentences. Carjackers have been slapped on the knuckles by flattering politicians. Not just the DC City Council,” the ad reads. “173 House Democrats voted for reduced sentences for violent crimes. So crazy that even President Biden won’t support anarchy.
“What next? Defund the police,” he continued.
The Democratic leadership, for its part, views the recent dust as a non-issue due to the impending expiration date of the national emergency COVID-19, which the administration announced earlier this year.
“We are almost in April, if I understood correctly, the Biden administration had set May 11 as the date. So I think from a time perspective it doesn’t really matter, because whether it’s May 11 or April, it’s pretty much the same,” Rep Ted said. Lieu (D-Calif.), the vice president of the House Democratic Caucus.
Doggett said the COVID-19 national emergency and DC’s crime bill were “very similar,” but a Second House Democrat suggested they weren’t caught off guard this time this because of the previous episode.
“Blindside would imply that it’s completely unexpected; given this most recent experience with DC’s crime bill, I guess I’m not too shocked but just disappointed,” the lawmaker said.
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